As promised, as the name of this page suggests, and as assumed in much of the posts and content, I like to make beef jerky. I also want to help jerky enthusiasts learn how to make beef jerky. This round of jerky making was geared toward documenting and creating a great step by step guide. This step by step guide is the culmination of all of my jerky making experience. I used a recipe and process that I have been working on for a number of years. The steps are similar to my entry into jerky making. So, for anyone who may want to try their own batch, this is a great starting point.
A few things you will need to gather, have access to, or borrow to make beef jerky:
- Worcestershire sauce – 1 Cup
- Soy Sauce – 2/3 Cup
- Liquid Smoke – 1 teaspoon (I love pecan smoke for this recipe! Hickory will also do well.)
- Hot Sauce – 1 teaspoon (I used Cajun Sunshine.)
- Onion powder – 2 Tablespoons
- Honey – 2 Tablespoons
- Fresh ground black pepper – 2 teaspoons
- Crushed red pepper flakes – 1 teaspoon
R2-D2 grinds pepper!
There are all sorts of cuts you can use. The texture, size, and flavor is all dependent upon the cut of beef. I believe the best cut to make beef jerky is flank steak. It has great grain and texture, it’s easy to slice correctly, it’s hard to over dry, and makes a great portion size when completed. It isn’t the cheapest cut, but you don’t want to underwhelm for your first attempt. When I want my batch of jerky to turn out stellar, I always go back to flank steak.
- Flank steak – 1 Pound (increase the marinade portions for a larger batch)
I always make the marinade first. Primarily for the simple reason that you want to put your beef in the freezer for about 30 minutes to make slicing easier and more uniform.
Making the marinade
Mix all the ingredients in a square dish big enough to fit the strips of beef but small enough that your marinade will cover all the sliced flank steak. I avoid using metal. A square Pyrex dish is perfect, because you can use the lid to cover it while it marinates.
Notice the proportion of soy and Worcestershire sauces are not the same. Many recipes that use this base have them equal. After many batches, I have decided that less soy makes a better flavor. If you really like salty beef jerky, do half and half. There is a lot more salt in the soy.
The hot sauce and red pepper is optional when you make beef jerky. You can also crank those portions up if you want a spicier outcome. You can choose your favorite hot sauce or try to find one that compliments the flavor. Notice this recipe doesn’t call for any extra garlic (no more than is already in the Worcestershire). So, I try and avoid hot sauces with garlic. I have found that the flavor of garlic on beef jerky, at least this recipe, doesn’t work that well.
Slicing the beef
As I mentioned, freezing the beef for about 30 minutes makes it easier to slice.
You want to cut 1/4 inch slices with the grain of the flank steak. Only if you get an enormous steak should you need to cut the slices in half. I like the slices to be between 6 and 12 inches long.
When finished, admire the uniform thickness of your slices. Aren’t you glad you have that wonderful knife?
Add the beef to the marinade
I add the jerky so that all the long pieces align in the dish. I add the smaller end pieces to the ends of the dish. This makes sure that the marinade rises to cover all of the beef.
Cover the dish and place in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours. You can marinate for less time at room temperature, but I don’t like to gamble with food borne illness. I am guessing the salt content would protect it. Consult the CDC. You can marinate it longer too. One time, my schedule got away from me and my jerky marinated for 3 days. Longer isn’t better. The texture changes and the beef can get way too flavorful/salty. Have you ever eaten a beef bouillon cube? So, before you get started, have your schedule set. Know when the beef jerky needs to come out of the marinade and when you are going to dry it. You could always keep the slices of beef separate from the marinade in the fridge for a while to accommodate your timing.
As you can see on my product page, I use an Excalibur food dehydrator. It is an amazing appliance for the home. It isn’t cheap, but worth every penny.
I think the slicing and marinating is my favorite part. However, the drying is quite amazing too. Dehydrating marinated beef inside will make the whole house smell like jerky! Be warned, I love this smell, but sleeping with a house that has a potent smell of jerky can cause weird dreams! Don’t say I didn’t warn you! I often like to start my jerky in the morning and come home to the finished product in the evening.
Place the strips on the drying rack(s) with space between them.
How long should you dry beef jerky? What temperature should you use? I believe the FDA says beef needs to get to 160 degrees to avoid the aforementioned food borne illness. The temperature setting on the Excalibur is said to be an average. So you set it to 155 degrees and it will do the trick. It’s the hottest setting. Timing has a lot to do with ambient humidity and the thickness of your slices. The more humid, the longer it takes. The thicker the slices, the longer it takes. Too thick and you get crunchy outside, juicy inside. Ewwww. Timing also has a lot to do with the desired tenderness of the finished product. 6-8 hours is best. It needs to be drying, uninterrupted. I often start at 6 hours and check it as soon as the time elapses. Based upon dryness, I will add more time. If you over dry it, you will get crispy, crunchy beef chips!
Finished Beef Jerky
The wait is over! The jerky is dried.
Try some! Or, better yet, let someone you care deeply for try some!
Try some with beer! Jerky and beer is a perfect match! The salty flavorful beef jerky makes beer drinking a glorious endeavor!
Go make beef jerky!